NEW YORK – Prize-winning fiction writer Deesha Philyaw, who struggled to find a publisher for what became her acclaimed debut “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” has a 7-figure deal for her next two books.
Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announced Thursday that it had signed up Philyaw and will publish her novel “The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman” in 2025. Mariner calls the book a “biting satire” of the Black church and “a deeply provocative” story about family, friendship and “sexual agency." Philyaw, who attended several different churches as a child, is centering the novel around a megachurch leader.
“In writing True Confessions, I really wanted to explore the narratives that 40- and 50-something Black women sometimes tell ourselves - as well as the narratives told about us - regarding our desires and aspirations," Philyaw said in a statement.
Her second book for Mariner, “Girl, Look,” is billed by the publisher as a "poignant new collection, giving a vivid snapshot of the interior lives of Black women across generations, drawing readers to consider Black women and girls’ vulnerabilities, invisibility, and beautiful contradictions, in a post-COVID, post-Breonna Taylor world." Mariner has not set a release date for “Girl, Look.”
“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” a collection of nine stories, was released by West Virginia University Press after several major New York publishers turned it down. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Story Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max.
This story has been updated to correct the title of Philyaw's next book. The book's title is “The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman,” not “True Confessions.”